What You Need to Know About Belly Button Piercings
Among frosted lips and barely-there brows, belly button piercings were one of the most distinctive beauty trends of the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Icons like Britney Spears and Beyoncé rocked the popular piercing in the early-aughts, while celebrities such as Billie Eilish and Vanessa Hudgens continue the trend today. It’s very likely you may have (or had) one, want one, or know a friend with one.
But where exactly does that little ring or rhinestone go? While most belly button piercings are placed at the top of the naval, it turns out that the belly button can be pierced in a few different spots. “A belly button piercing, or navel piercing, is a piercing around the rim of skin outside of your navel in the lower middle of your stomach, traditionally on the top ‘lip,’” Jim Kelly, Manager of Body Piercing Training at Banter by Piercing Pagoda, explains. “But, if anatomy allows, [it] can also be [pierced] on the bottom or even sides.”
Bedazzling your belly is a vibe, but it’s important to know all the facts before you book your appointment. Here, the experts explain everything you need to know about belly button piercings, including how to prepare, what to look for in a piercing shop, and the best after-care products.
Is a belly button piercing painful?
In most cases, belly button piercings are not *too* painful. Your stomach is fleshier in this area, so while you’ll still feel a pinch and some pressure, a belly button piercing isn’t extremely uncomfortable. “There is more skin and fat around the belly button so it hurts less than piercings in other areas,” Dr. Rachel Nazarian, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, explains.
On a scale from 1 to 10? “A belly piercing is probably a 3 out of 10 in terms of pain,” Kelly adds.
What should I do before getting a belly button piercing?
The most important step to remember before a body piercing appointment is to eat and drink water. “Be well-hydrated and make sure you ate relatively recently, being that the abdomen can be particularly sensitive to queasy feelings, especially in younger clients,” Kelly advises. Although you’ll likely be reclined in a chair for this piercing, you definitely want to eat and drink beforehand to avoid dizziness or faintness.
Where are the best places to get a belly button piercing?
So, you made the decision to get pierced and texted your bestie to come along. But… where do you go to get a belly button piercing? What should you look for when choosing a place? Kelly suggests that you check reviews of local businesses online, and maybe even visit them in person to get a sense of how well maintained they are.
“It is always acceptable to ask piercers for portfolios of previous work as well,” he adds. It’s also important to note that if you’re under 18, you might need a parent or guardian present to get a body piercing.
What type of jewelry is used for a belly button piercing?
The curved barbell, specifically 14-gauge, is most common for belly button piercings, Kelly explains. “Length varies slightly, but you can trust your piercer to find the appropriate length for your anatomy,” he says.
In terms of material, titanium and 14k gold jewelry are your best bets. These are quality materials that reduce the risk of irritation or infection. Some piercers might opt for stainless steel jewelry, “but stay away if you are allergic to nickel,” Dr. Nazarian warns.
How long does it take a belly button piercing to heal?
Typically, it takes somewhere between 3 to 6 months for a belly button piercing to heal completely.
At 4 to 6 weeks, which Kelly calls the “downsize” period, the jewelry could be switched out by a professional. “You may have been fit with a piece of jewelry that was slightly longer to accommodate for swelling, and may have excess build up that’s hard to remove,” he explains. “You can do a one-time change out with your piercer during this time to heal more comfortably until the piercing is ready to be switched out freely.”
If you can’t tell if your piercing is fully healed or not, you could consult your piercer. Or, if you’ve had previous piercings, you could use those healing timelines to determine if your jewelry is ready to be switched out. “If you healed faster than other people, this [healing process] should be similar,” Kelly explains. “[But] if you had a 6-month healing process that took 8 months to a year, expect this to take longer as well.”
“Once healed, it’s as easy as removing the top bead or ball off the jewelry, sliding the jewelry out of its position, and swapping it out with a new one,” he adds.
What should I do after getting a belly button piercing? What should I not do?
To best take care of your belly button ring post-piercing, make sure to clean it every day. “Use a saline solution like H2Ocean twice daily, and let the solution penetrate the piercing,” Kelly says. Don’t rinse off any additional build-up with regular water. Instead, use a clean Q-tip to gently wipe away any excess spray. And don’t forget to wash your hand with soap and water before touching the piercing, Dr. Nazarian notes.
Kelly recommends avoiding any scented soaps or products around the area, as the fragrance could lead to redness or irritation. “Do not apply thick ointments that can [block] the area and allow bacteria and fungus to grow,” Dr. Nazarian adds.
Also, it’s recommended that you stay out of hot tubs, pools, oceans, and lakes for at least 3 weeks post-piercing. Lakes and stagnant water should probably be avoided for even longer, until the piercing is fully healed, Kelly says. “The piercing is still an open wound at this point, with a higher chance of being infected by contaminants,” he explains.
What are the possible side effects of a belly button piercing?
While it’s normal to experience a little bleeding and soreness for a few days, belly button piercings could get infected. “Look out for increasing swelling, foul-smelling discharge, warmth, and deep redness around the site,” Dr. Nazarian advises. These can all signal an infection.
“Navel piercings are technically a surface piercing, which means the entrance and exit of the jewelry are on the same plane of skin,” Kelly says. “These have a higher chance of rejection than other piercings.” Rejection means that your body sees the piercing as a foreign object and tries to force it out. Since the jewelry used for a belly button piercing would only have to push through a short distance of skin, it’s at a higher risk of rejection, Kelly explains.
“This is more so the case if you’re very physically active,” he adds.
While clear discharge due to inflammation is standard post-piercing, continued leakage or a change in color is not. “Clear fluid is normal, but if it keeps leaking and is yellow, that is more concerning,” Dr. Nazarian explains. If you think your belly button piercing is infected, call your doctor ASAP.
How much do belly button piercings cost?
Belly button piercings usually cost somewhere between $30 and $100, Kelly says. But keep in mind that you should tip your piercer as well. Some studios probably have their pricing listed online, but you can always give them a call to check before you go.
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